By Loretta Fulton
At precisely 8:40 p.m., Anas and Hannah Daghmoumi sat down at a small serving table to break the Ramadan fast with a guest in their home.
Two children, ages 3 and a half and 5, had their own “break-fast” at the kitchen table. The adults enjoyed dates shipped from California, clustered nuts, hot tea, and Hannah’s homemade baklava.
The ritual, including prayers, is called “iftar” and is repeated every day through the end of Ramadan on June 24. Ramadan, which began May 26, occurs at different times each year. According to Islamic tradition, Ramadan is the month when Allah revealed the first verses of the Quran or holy book to the prophet Muhammad.
Even though Ramadan is an ancient ritual steeped in tradition, it has been updated a little. How did the Daghmoumi family know that sunset occurred precisely at 8:40 p.m. on May 31?
“There’s an app,” Hannah said, as Anas found it on his phone.
The technology may be new, but the significance and trad
itions of Ramadan are not. Fasting is emphasized as a means of feeling a connection with the poor and hungry, Anas said.
“It’s challenging,” he said, “but not as challenging as you would think.”
One reason is that Muslim children grow up with the tradition. Even children as young as the Daghmoumi children, a boy and a girl. The children are awakened at 4:30 a.m. to receive a small gift, to pray and to eat a light meal called “suhoor” with their parents. Then they go back to bed and sleep until around 9. For adults, no eating or drinking water, is allowed after dawn, which now occurs at 5:15 a.m.–according to the app on Anas’ phone.
Unlike adults, the children eat and drink water during the day. They already cherish Ramadan and its rituals so much that they get upset if they aren’t awakened at 4:30 a.m., Anas said.
Even though Ramadan emphasizes fasting, it is a joyous occasion for Muslims. The fireplace mantle in the Daghmoumi home is draped in white lights and the top serves as a bookshelf for children’s books on Ramadan that Hannah checked out from the library.
A children’s Ramadan calendar, Daghmoumi children, is pinned to the wall next to the mantle. Another wall serves as a place to hang inflated yellow balloons, each containing a piece of candy. At the end of each day, the children get to pop one of the balloons.
On Eid al-Fitr, the last day of Ramadan, the children get to burst a pinata filled with candy.
“We make it a huge deal for the children,” Hannah said.
Hannah is a stay-at-home mom, although much of the day isn’t actually spent at home. Hannah frequently takes the children to the one of the Abilene Public Library branches for activities and to check out books. They also love the zoo, other recreation places in Abilene and museums.
The children learn at home from both parents about the true meaning of Ramadan and how the prayers and dieting restrictions have special meaning. They get it.
“I feel like I have a 16 and a 17-year-old at home,” Hannah said with a laugh. “They are truly blessed and they know that.”
During the day, Anas goes to work at Wienerschnitzel, where he is the franchise owner. Employees know he is fasting during Ramadan and not allowed to eat or drink during the day. He bought the local franchise in September 2013 through a connection with the husband of Hannah’s sister. It was a bit of a culture shock, they admit, but now love Abilene and the warm welcome they have received.
Anas is a member of the board of Abilene Interfaith Council and the family has made friends in town. For both Anas and Hannah, the journey to Abilene was a long one. For Hannah it started in California and for Anas it started in Casablanca, Morocco.
He came to the United States for school, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in international studies and political science from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Graduate studies took him to California, where he met Hannah. They married and discovered the financial challenge of living in California, where a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment cost $1,600 a month, not including utilities.
That realization caused them to relocate to Texas when the Wienerschnitzel franchise became available. The family is happy in their apartment in Abilene, with its living room walls and mantle decorated for Ramadan.
It isn’t just for decorative purposes that Hannah puts so much effort into making the home a true reflection of Ramadan. Glancing at his young children, Anas explains.
“We’re trying to teach them who we are,” he said.